A good tote bag is so versatile and useful. Sewing bag, book bag, beach bag, shopping bag, knitting bag; the possibilities are endless. I wanted to create more handcrafted Christmas gifts this year and set out to sew up a couple of great totes for two dear friends of mine. I found some lovely fabric and got to work. I have made other totes in the past and used my past experiences to finally include all of my favorite features in one great bag. A tote must be sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of dragging it around full of important items, must have a pocket or two, must be lined, and must be cute. I think I met all of this criteria and wanted to share how I did it with you.
1 yard cotton/cotton blend fabric (for exterior, handles, and pocket)
1/2 yard cotton/cotton blend fabric for lining (you can use the same as the exterior or go for a fun contrasting piece of fabric)
1/2 yard fusible fleece
*All seam allowances are 1/2 inch unless otherwise stated.
Cut out all of your pieces as follows:
2 pieces each of exterior, 17 inches long x 16.5 inches wide
2 pieces of lining, 17 inches long x 16.5 inches wide
2 pieces of fusible fleece, 17 inches long x 16.5 inches wide
2 pieces for pocket, 8 inches x 8 inches
2 handles of exterior fabric, 3 inches wide and 24 inches long
2 pieces of fusible fleece for handles, 1 1/2 inches by 24 inches
Fuse fleece to the two lining pieces, following the directions that come with the fleece.
With right sides together, sew around the edges of the 8×8 pocket pieces, leaving a 2 inch gap at the bottom for turning it right side out.
Turn pocket right side out and press flat, turning under the opening left for at the bottom to the inside and pressing. Topstitch ONLY the top of the pocket for a nice finished look. Center the pocket onto one side of the lining fabric (with the turned under opening at the bottom), pin, and sew (using a 1/4 in. seam) the sides and bottom of the pocket to the lining.
With right sides together, sew down the sides and bottom of the lining fabric, leaving about a 4 inch gap at the bottom for turning later. Also with right sides together, stitch together the sides and bottom of the exterior (do not leave a gap in the exterior).
Stick your hand inside the exterior and pinch the bottom corner so that the side and bottom seams are aligned. From the tip of the corner, measure two inches and mark with either a pin or a water soluable pen perpendicular to the seam. Sew along that line.
Repeat with other corner and the corners of the lining. Clip close to the line you sewed to make it lay nice.
Assemble the handles by first fusing the fleece to HALF of each handle. Then, with right sides together fold one handle in half and stitch along the edge. Using a large safety pin, turn the handle inside out but stuffing the pin into the opening and continuing to slide it down.
Once it is turned inside out, press the handle flat (the seam should be out toward the side). Topstitch each side of the handle to create a finished look. Repeat to create the other handle.
Align the raw edges of each handle with the raw edges of the top of the exterior Pin in place so that the handles are 5″ apart. Make sure that your handle loop is facing the way that you want it to appear. Slip the exterior into the lining with RIGHT sides facing each other (the handles will be sandwiched between the lining and exterior).
Line up side seams and pin around the top edge. *Very Important: Put a pin through the exterior, lining, and handle to secure the handles and then REMOVE the pin on the inside. You don’t want to sew your pins to the inside of your bag.*
Sew around top of the bag. Remove pins and pull the exterior through the hole in the bottom of the lining.
Tuck in raw edges of the lining and sew close to the edge to close.
Push the lining into the exterior and situate it so that seams and bottom all line up. Press the top edge of the tote so that the seam lies flat. Topstitch around the upper edge of the tote.
That’s it! This tote doesn’t take too much time to put together so you will want to make one for yourself, and then make a bunch more because they are great for gift giving! This bag is also easy to customize. Need more pockets? Add another one to the other side. Don’t want pockets? Just leave them off. Being able to adjust to your needs is one of the beauties of sewing your own stuff.